The only time she engages in meaningful conversation is when the children are asleep.
It’s a fact she’s come to accept over the years. Prior to their bedtime, every sentence was interrupted by a high-pitched “Mom!” and then she’d forget her point. Now, she responds to almost everyone in one syllable. “No.” Anyway, she’s no longer certain that she has anything important to say. When there is time to talk, it’s usually with Michael and these discussions revolve around the needs of the children.
“A cavity.” “Shin guards.” “Lice, again.”
Though tonight seems different. Michael is smiling when he gets home from work. He loosens his tie and sets his BlackBerry on the counter. “We need to time to talk later,” he says in a hushed and excited tone, which hints at a surprise.
Heather washes the dishes and then the children. She imagines what he’ll reveal. A romantic trip to Paris. She’s ready. A spa weekend. She’ll book massages. At this point, she’ll be happy with room service and one night away at a nearby hotel. Whatever Michael wants to discuss, it sounds exciting and promising, two things her day wasn’t. Kaitlin came home crying after an argument with her best friend. And Dylan was angry that he got cut from the elementary school basketball team.
Heather slips into her favorite sweats and walks downstairs to join Michael in the basement. Tonight she will not let his Star Wars collection bother her.
“Dylan will want them one day,” Michael had said while lining small plastic figurines of Chewbacca and Yoda along the shelf.
“He doesn’t even like Star Wars,” Heather replied but Michael had ignored her. His fascination with his 1970’s childhood memorabilia seems to only have increased with the passing years. There are his metal lunch boxes, framed movie posters and light sabers. Still, tonight she’ll give up the argument if it involves a vacation.
“So, what’s the exciting news?” she asks as she sits on his shiny black leather sofa that has been banished to the basement.
He’s changed out of his work clothes and into a red Adidas track suit. He turns to her. “I’ve been nominated to run for the Palisades City Council,” he says with a smile, his hands resting on his hips.
Heathers eyes grow wide in disbelief. “Since when have you been interested in local government?” she asks.
“It’s a family tradition,” Michael responds.
“You’re father’s a proctologist,” she says.
“I told you he served as mayor pro tem from 1976 to 1978.” he says.
“Remember when I asked you to help me volunteer at the Friends of the Library book sale last month and you said you were too busy?” Heather reminds him. “And before that there was the school clean up day which I ended up covering for you, collecting trash for three hours, while you golfed?”
“This will be easy. I’m the only candidate. Besides, I expected you’d be excited and supportive,” he says and sits on the sofa. It makes a crackling sound.
“I am,” she lies. “It just that we have a lot on our plate right now and it’s surprising that you’d want to do this in your free time. I thought you had other interests.” She studies the life-sized plastic Storm Trooper positioned in the corner of the room, the blaster pointed at her head.
“I’m doing this for our family,” he says. “It’s about being a good role model for the children, right?”
The automatic bells on his Elvira pinball machine ring, as if on cue. Heather raises her eyebrows. She wonders who nominated him to run and whether she should thank or kill this person.
“Come on,” he says and scoots next to her, the leather creaking as he makes his way closer. “It’ll be fun. Besides, I think you’ll make a great first lady.” He is smiling in that boyish way that allows him to get whatever he wants. Luke and Leia in all white seem to smile down at her from behind their framed glass enclosure. Michael kisses her on the cheek. “You’re the best,” he says.
I am, she thinks and maybe I should be the one to run against him.